12234983_976097852446644_5413876498974147707_n

British Basketball League (BBL) WEEK 24 Preview

Our weekly look at the action ahead in the BBL.

Focus
Esh Group Eagles Newcastle v Leicester Riders

Where and when:

Emirates Arena, 3.30pm Saturday 27 February

Summary:

Leicester Riders get another shot at the one piece of silverware that has so far eluded them while Esh Group Eagles Newcastle aim to extend their quest for second consecutive clean sweep in Saturday’s BBL Trophy Final.

The BBL Championship’s top two face off in front of a sold-out Emirates Arena in Glasgow in a rematch of last season’s Trophy Final, and January’s BBL Cup Final.

Eagles came from behind to win both of those contests, meaning Riders have now finished as BBL Trophy runners-up on four occasions.

However, the Leicester club have beaten the reigning champions in league action since that Cup Final defeat and Fab Flournoy’s hand has been forced in recent weeks as Darius Defoe, Scott Martin and Stu Thomson have all struggled with injury – although they are expected to be fit for this one.

Eagles still managed to overcome 2014 Trophy winners Worcester Wolves in their two-legged Semi-Final before Riders recovered from a first leg 79-79 tie with Sheffield Sharks to edge their last-four opponent.

Rob Paternostro missed Riders’ BBL Championship defeat against Glasgow Rocks last time out to attend the birth of his second child, his side’s first reverse since the Cup Final.

Last time they met:

Esh Group Eagles Newcastle 75 Leicester Riders 83 (BBL Championship, Sport Central, 29 January 2016)

Form:

Eagles: LWWWWW
Riders: WWWTWL

Three Points:

  • Shane Walker missed Riders’ defeat to Rocks last weekend through illness
  • Fab Flournoy suffered a season-ending injury in last season’s BBL Trophy Final against Riders
  • Charles Smith won the MVP award when Eagles beat Riders in last season’s BBL Trophy Final

What they say:

Eagles forward Andy Thomson: “The team’s togetherness has helped us through some tough times this season and last, which means we’ve been able to grind out some very good wins. I believe it all starts with the players’ individual mentality and is magnified by the coaching staff striving for excellence.

“I think the two areas that will be key for the final are rebounding and transition. Leicester are very good at breaking out on the break on a miss or even a make. We need to transition back well, while also staying true to the scouting report on players’ tendencies.

“Secondly, the battle of the boards will be key. If we can clean up the defensive boards, restricting Leicester’s second-chance points and kick-outs, I think this will have a big effect on the result.

“You always have to respect your opponent and the style they play. But you can’t change the way you play; you have to stick to your defensive principles while making little adjustments in certain areas.

“We have to remember what worked for us on our route to the final, we know how they’re going to pressure us while on offence. We have to take care of the ball, while playing at our tempo and making them work on the offensive and defensive ends.”

Riders forward Jamell Anderson: “We just have to carry on improving and building on our togetherness. There’s no point in the season that we can’t improve and that’s all I take away from that game [against Glasgow].

“We have the players and staff to play at a high level as we have shown and we will continue to aim for that type of basketball.

“Rebounding is always key in big games, knocking down your free throws and sticking to the game plan. We will prepare ourselves for the game to the best of our abilities.

“There are always tactics and different plans because every team is different and has different strengths and weaknesses. We will prepare ourselves to be the best Riders team we can be and, of course, try and attack their weaknesses and play to our strengths. But the most important thing is that we focus on being prepared and focused.”

Game
Friday 26 February 2016
CH 19:30 Leeds Force v Manchester Giants
CH 19:30 Surrey Scorchers v Cheshire Phoenix

Saturday 27 February 2016
TRO Final 15:30 Esh Group Eagles Newcastle v Leicester Riders

Sunday 28 February 2016
CH 18:00 Manchester Giants v Plymouth University Raiders

Source: BBL
Image: P.Davies